Minotauros regain third in the Central Division, hold off Bobcats
After dropping to fourth place in the Central Division standings following a 5-4 loss to the Bismarck Bobcats on Friday, the Minot Minotauros wasted no time in retaliating to get the spot back.
The Minotauros (18-12-1) avenged Friday’s road defeat with a 4-2 victory over the Bobcats (17-11-1) Saturday night at Maysa Arena.
The Minotauros did so without head coach Marty Murray behind the bench. He was at an alumni event for the 1995 Team Canada squad that won gold at the world juniors.
“It was nerve wracking, but good,” Minotauros assistant coach Shane Wagner said about stepping in as head coach. “Marty (Murray) and Chris Lonke have done a great job building a phenomenal team… When these guys want to go, they can go. And they turned it around (from last night) and played the way they can play.”
The Minotauros came out buzzing with hard hits and crisp passing.
Minot’s Dedrik Henbrant had the first major scoring chance six minutes in but was stoned on a breakaway.
His Swedish counterpart Wilmer Skoog, however, had his back a minute later.
After Matthew Gellerman diced his way through traffic to get to the front of the net and put a shot on frame, Skoog was waiting on the back side to clean up the juicy rebound.
Skoog’s ninth goal of the season had Maysa Arena rocking. Then, four minutes later, Taylor Lantz had the crowd of 1,996 people on their feet once again.
The Alaska-Anchorage commit, who scored twice against the Bobcats on Friday, sidestepped a defender in the corner with a flashy deke and crashed the net.
Lantz collided with a Bismarck defender trying to recover. In the chaos, the puck hopped up in the air, fluttered over the shoulder of goaltender John Roberts and landed in the back of the net.
At the other end of the ice, Minotauros goaltender Ben Garrity preserved Minot’s 2-0 lead going into the first intermission by making a point-blank save on Christian Brune.
Andrew Kangas and Andy Stoneman traded goals in the second period to push the score to 3-1.
Bismarck opened the third period by smacking the post. Bobcats forward Hunter Johannes hit iron again six minutes later, but this time his shot went in to pull Bismarck within a goal.
“That’s a standard Bismarck vs. Minot game,” Wagner said. “It always comes down to the wire, no matter what happens.”
The Bobcats threw everything they had at the Minotauros in the final 10 minutes.
Minot wasn’t going to take it.
During a post-whistle scrum with 5:50 remaining, Skoog flung a Bobcats’ stick in the air and then tried to snap the stick in half by stomping on it with his skate.
Skoog was credited with an empty net goal with 28 seconds left to seal the win.
The Minotauros head back to Bismarck on New Year’s Eve to wrap up this three-game series with the Bobcats and the 2018 calendar year.
Puck drop on Monday is set for 7:15 p.m. at the VFW Sports Center.
Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.